It was recently revealed that Tottenham Court Road’s long standing neon ‘Time Out’ sign has been removed, pending the media company’s office move.
I noticed that this was reported as a temporary measure, but the details of the move were kept ambiguous, leaving the question of why Time Out would move a sign from the front of the building unless they were moving to offices elsewhere? Logic would surely suggest that it has gone for good from Tottenham Court Road. This got me wondering-is this bad news for one of central London’s most famous roads?
‘TCR’, as it is affectionately known by Londoners who swarm the area, is the long street of shops and services leading up towards Camden from the West End. It has been an essential route and public site for generations, and could still be seen as key place to view the varied nature of London life. It was a site of the people from early on, as William Hogarth showed in his atmospheric oil painting of Tottenham Court Road in ‘The March of the Guards to Finchley’ (1749-1750).
…TCR’s erudite connections are represented by a smattering of UCL buildings…
Though some could argue the TCR of nowadays has slightly less character, it has remained a site of the ‘everyman’. At the Charing Cross end of the street one can find high-end bookshops such as Henry Pordes and Forbes, chic shoe shops and artsy music outlets, mixed jarringly with cheap restaurants. Half way up the road, the junction with Shaftesbury Avenue brings with it the gloriously imposing Cambridge Theatre. Above the distinctive Centrepoint tower and Renzo Piano’s colourful new St Giles development, the middle section of the road caters firmly for the middle classes with luxury stores like Paperchase and specialist camera shops. TCR’s erudite connections are represented by a smattering of UCL buildings, while it also has a seedier side; over-eighteens bookshops, casinos and even a strip club. At the top of the road stand the distinctive turquoise-coloured towers of University College Hospital, providing treatment for thousands of patients. Some could say this is an appropriate finishing point for TCR, the road that seems to encapsulate so many diverse interests and people of modern London.
Bearing this in mind, does it actually matter that Time Out, the successful listings and reviews magazine that reportedly sells 305 000 copies per week with a stratospheric 455% annual sales increase, has moved its neon sign?
…It would be wrong to overestimate the loss of the sign…
One could say it helped glamourise the road’s haphazardness through the company’s established ‘cool’ reputation in catering for a demographic of hip young Londoners. Media companies have also had a huge part to play in London’s development after all. London is home to many local and global newspapers, magazines, events companies and communications agencies. In representing the city’s media buzz, the sign’s removal inevitably causes a narrowing of the diversity of the road and therefore a narrowing of the London life it represents. It would be wrong to overestimate the loss of the sign to such a varied, lively stretch of road. As Time Out develops, so will Tottenham Court Road. Still, a fun little bit of neon never hurt anyone. Let’s hope Time Out reconsiders its decision.